October 28, 2011

Fall Book Club: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Well, it's book discussion time again! This month's choice for Tracey Neithercott's Fall Book Club was Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor.

Goodreads description:

“Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?”

*     *     *

First of all, I loved everything about this book starting with the cover. If this book hadn’t been this month’s selection, and even if I hadn’t already heard so much buzz about it, the cover would have grabbed my attention right away. It’s absolutely gorgeous. How completely fitting that such a beautiful cover is wrapped around an equally beautiful story. 

There was so much hype around this book that I found myself approaching it with a mix of anticipation and trepidation. I so badly wanted it to live up to the hype and to not be let down. Wow, Daughter of Smoke & Bone certainly deserves all the buzz around it. The entire time I was reading this book I was captivated by Taylor’s skillful descriptions and turns of phrase. This is a perfect example of description done right. It's all 'show' and no 'tell'. It was one of those situations where I would reread lines just to savor them again and again. Her way with words made this story come alive in so many ways. I had to consciously shut off that voice in my head that kept telling me that my writing will never measure up (henceforth it shall be referred to as 'the book that launched a thousand doubts'). It was that good

The choice of Prague as the main setting was beyond perfect for this story. I’ve actually been to Prague so it was hard not to squee with glee when she mentioned familiar places*. Prague’s gothic and creepy architecture and the city’s rich history make it simply ooze atmosphere and this book captures that perfectly. Take this sentence on the very first page, for instance: 

On the riverfront thoroughfare, trams and buses roared past, grounding the day in the twenty-first century, but on the quieter lanes, the wintry peace might have hailed from another time.” 

The other settings were just as rich in atmosphere, and any time Karou's story's 'backdrop' changed, I was just as pulled in by her new surroundings. That, of course, all goes back to Laini Taylor's amazing descriptions again.

As for the characters, this story had quite the unique cast which I found increasingly fascinating the more they were explained. The various combinations of chimera were at the same time creepy and intriguing (Brimstone was such a great character!). Karou as our protagonist was witty, intelligent, sympathetic, vulnerable yet strong, and just plain interesting. I loved her voice. There was nothing try-hard about it, which I really, really appreciated**. She was very real despite the otherworldly aspects of her story. Akiva as a love interest (*clears throat*)…“Did it just get crazy hot in here?” Perfect, that's all I'm going to say about that. Their romance develops quickly - some might even call it 'Instalove' - but it's not worthy of a single eye roll. You don't doubt that Karou and Akiva are soulmates for even a moment. To go into further detail would involve spoilers, so I'll leave it at that.

This is one of those stories where I actually thoroughly enjoyed the backstory. The history of the animosity between these two groups of beings (Chimera and Seraphim) was far from boring and only added deeper layers to the story. Everything is explained properly and I didn't have that feeling at the end that a whole pile of questions were never answered (call it J. J. Abrams' Lost syndrome, if you will). It is set up for a sequel which I will definitely be reading.
In the spirit of Halloween and 
unabashed geekiness I give you: 
Daughter of DollarStoreMask 
& TooMuchTimeOnHands

I have to say, after reading a certain sparkly paranormal series and all the wannabe spawn in its wake I was kind of turned off of paranormal for a while. This wonderfully written story has renewed my interest in paranormal romance all over again. So for that I say, ‘thank you, Laini Taylor’. If I could give it a 6 out of 5, believe me I would.

*The Charles Bridge and Tyn Cathedral among others.
**I read a book recently where the MC's voice felt really 'try hard', and I could even feel the author's voice sneaking in a little. Needless to say, it was a bit distracting.


  1. Great review! I was also nervous about reading this, and wound up loving this book. It felt fresh and classic at the same time, and the writing was so lush.

  2. I also bought into the instalove. One thing Taylor did impeccably well was convince me, as a reader, that the love between characters was real and true and honest. In fact, this woman writes so well that I bought every single word of the book. If I'm not careful I'm bound to catch myself peeking in dark alleys and forgotten doorways, hoping to find Brimestone and jars of teeth. Great review!

  3. First, I love your mask photo! :)

    Your review is very, very similar to mine. I felt like a total fangirl raving about every aspect of this story, but I just absolutely loved every bit of it. The back story, the settings, the characters, the intense, layered love story. There was NOTHING that I didn't buy totally and completely into. Can't wait for the next installment!

    Great review, Jaime!

  4. I had the same reaction to the setting of Prague. I've been there and it's one of my favorite cities in the world, and I was so excited when she described places I'd been. I also felt like the romance was well done. If it was instalove, I didn't notice. It made sense (and it made even more sense after the big reveal).

    Also, your mask is truly awesome!

  5. Great review! I read a writer's blog a while back that talked about how the best writers have excellent taste as readers, and that's why they are never satisfied with their own work. I've tried to embrace that; recognizing great writing can only help us improve our own.

  6. Excellent review, Jaime! I was in love with the book for about the first 200 pages (for reasons similar to yours), and then the ending really took me out it. But that won't stop me from reading the sequel.

  7. Ha--book that launched a thousand doubts! I felt like that, too. Laini Taylor's writing is so lush and original. I loved this book for all the reasons you mention. And, having been to Prague, I kept seeing it happening in that magical place, as well.

  8. I'm going to buy this and read soon for my upcoming vacation! I've heard great things, and I've also been burnt out with paranormal. It sounds like this has enough to set it apart.


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